Monday, April 13, 2009

Stanley Cup Playoff Traditions Run Deep

Most hockey fans know that one of the most fun traditions to watch during playoff season is the practice of players not shaving their faces during the team’s entire playoff run. Thus when the Detroit Red Wings hoisted the Cup last year, it looked like a team made up of Kris Kringle-meets-Grizzly Adams-meets-The Geico Caveman on ice! This playoff ritual was believed to have been started by the New York Islanders back in the 1980s.

The Washington Capitals are embracing this tradition and encouraging fans to participate in the Capitals Beard-A-Thon, along with several local media celebrities. Fans may elect to grow a beard themselves or make a financial donation in support of a Capitals player or a fan that has elected to grow a playoff beard, with proceeds going to Washington Capitals Charities. Hockey Mom is putting her money on Nick Backstrom to grow the best beard – now that will be a sight to see! P.S., Nick if you start looking anything like Sidney Crosby did with his pencil-thin mustache during last year’s run, I’m sure you’ll get a pass!

Now when I first heard of this fantastic contest, my first thought was “what about the ladies”? Never fear fabulous female Caps fans, I have an idea for a new tradition just for us that I’ll share later!

Many of the playoff traditions are fan-centric, like the “red out”, "white out" or the tradition of the Red Wings fans throwing slimy octopi on the ice. The Wings even have a guy who specializes in “twirling” the sea creature before flinging it onto the rink! This tradition started back in 1952, after two brothers threw an octopus onto the ice with each leg representing one of the team's eight playoff wins. The octopus is one of my very favorite traditions (other than the Caps’ recent initiation of the “red out”) of course and I always wonder how the heck they get those slithery things through stadium security (especially those big monsters)!

But players adapt playoff rituals as well in addition to the beard growth, as hockey players can tend to be a superstitious breed, especially around playoff time! A long-time superstition among NHLers is that it may be bad luck to touch Lord Stanley’s Cup before your team has officially won the coveted trophy.

So it will be interesting to monitor the Caps’ playoff beard progress – I personally hope they all look like the guys from Z.Z. Top at the end, which will mean a great long playoff run!

And as for us gals who can’t grow beards, I say we create our own form of a red out and rock the red lipstick (think Madonna circa 1983) and red nail polish throughout the Caps’ run. I’ve even found the perfect lip tint for every skin color – aptly named Russian Red (how perfect is that)!


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